20 Sep, 2011

MPs and public call on Government

Majority believe action needed to boost freelance and flexible sector

In a new ComRes survey released today by PCG and the REC, more than three quarters of the public (79{6060b2de664e4eaa3e7b7e86961ce2c4bbd7a29b6c1097abf8257a4e5b07383e}) and more than two thirds of MPs (69{6060b2de664e4eaa3e7b7e86961ce2c4bbd7a29b6c1097abf8257a4e5b07383e}) believe ‘the government should make it easier for companies to adopt a flexible workforce approach.’

On the eve of the party conference season the survey, commissioned jointly by PCG, the UK’s biggest organisation representing freelancers, and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, representing the recruitment sector, revealed a consensus for Government action as a priority. When asked if, “encouraging a flexible labour force is important in stimulating economic growth”, 86{6060b2de664e4eaa3e7b7e86961ce2c4bbd7a29b6c1097abf8257a4e5b07383e} of MPs and 78{6060b2de664e4eaa3e7b7e86961ce2c4bbd7a29b6c1097abf8257a4e5b07383e} of the public agreed.

Both the public and politicians also overwhelmingly believe flexible working has played a part in Britain weathering the economic storm, with 71{6060b2de664e4eaa3e7b7e86961ce2c4bbd7a29b6c1097abf8257a4e5b07383e} and 78{6060b2de664e4eaa3e7b7e86961ce2c4bbd7a29b6c1097abf8257a4e5b07383e} respectively saying that ‘adopting a flexible workforce has meant that some companies got through the recession better than they otherwise would have done’.

Embracing the public and political consensus, PCG and REC are united in the top three priorities they believe Government should implement:

Tax simplification: The tax system must reward flexible work, not penalise it. HMRC must improve their administration making it simple and clear, treat self-employed workers according to their status and cut-back on red tape. IR35 is a prime example of this.

The Agency Workers Regulations: These are imminent and the industry is ready to ensure that flexible staffing arrangements do not suffer. However, an early ‘one-year on’ review of the regulations is needed to ensure it does not negatively affect the market in the long term.

Universal credit and pensions: A system that fully recognises that people work on a flexible basis is crucial. The benefits system can prevent people from getting valuable experience because of the risk of their benefits being cut back. Pensions must become more portable, and easier to administer for flexible workers.

158 MPs from all political parties and more than 2,000 adults were surveyed and revealed 89{6060b2de664e4eaa3e7b7e86961ce2c4bbd7a29b6c1097abf8257a4e5b07383e} of MPs and 76{6060b2de664e4eaa3e7b7e86961ce2c4bbd7a29b6c1097abf8257a4e5b07383e} of the public agree that people no longer expect to have one job for life in 21st century Britain. *(See notes to editors for individual party preferences breakdown.)

Simon McVicker, Head of Public Affairs at PCG, commented:

“It’s abundantly clear from these results that both the public and MP’s understand that flexible working is crucial to ongoing UK economic growth, however we feel policy is dangerously lagging behind. We are now calling for a clear and positive response from the Government delivering definitive policy action that will not only allow freelancing to reach its full potential but will be a real help to the UK economy at this time.”

Tom Hadley, REC Director of Policy and Professional Services, commented:

“We must move away from the out-dated notion that traditional full-time work is the only viable or desirable form of employment. The assumption that all of those working in a part-time or temporary capacity are only doing so because they can’t find full-time work doesn’t reflect reality. Instead, flexible working is embraced by individuals for a variety of reasons. Decision-makers must recognise this and support this important tool to promote much-needed economic growth.”

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